Why Man United and Matthijs de Ligt are not the right fit for each other

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An end to this summer’s grinding transfer saga is, apparently, coming into view.

Matthijs de Ligt will, imminently, transform from football’s greatest object of desire to the latest adornment at one of Europe’s grandees in the aftermath of the Netherlands’ Nations League decider against Portugal.

Tantalisingly – and surprisingly – for a club that finds itself within a pit of despair so deep that even Dante would be daunted, Manchester United is a name that continues to be tentatively linked with the 19-year-old.

Precipitous wage demands that have stalled a once-inevitable switch to Barcelona are, reportedly, no issue for incurably covetous executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward or dealing with quarrelsome ‘super-agent’ Mino Raiola. Neither is the €75 million+ fee demanded by Ajax.

The appeal of the prodigious centre-back is obvious, even to a layman’s eyes. United’s appeal to De Ligt, less so.

Such bullish power and preternatural leadership skills should not be found in a – relative – newcomer, who has made little more than 100 club appearances.

Laymen, however, should not be making decisions at elite football teams. Look beyond the abnormal talent and inject a dose of rationality absent since chief executive David Gill and manager Sir Alex Ferguson’s devastating double departure in 2013.

Now is not the time for United to be pursuing coltish talent in pivotal positions. No matter how steep their rise.

This is different to landing a prospect on the wing, like Swansea City and Wales’ Daniel James. After their worst defensive performance in 40 seasons, a battle-hardened centre-back for the here and now is required.

Especially when much-improved Sweden centre-back Victor Lindelof only clocks in at 24-years old. Plus, next term’s potential full-backs in the resident Luke Shaw and Crystal Palace’s Aaron Wan-Bissaka boast a combined age of 44.

De Ligt holds himself like a veteran warrior. Youthful failings, however, still remain.

United’s Marcus Rashford took advantage of a miss-control to win – and convert – his penalty in last week’s eventual 3-1 win for the Dutch against England.

De Ligt was majestic at Santiago Bernabeu in March’s 4-1 humiliation of Real Madrid in the Champions League’s round-of-16, then powerless as Tottenham Hotspur roared back with three unanswered goals in the semi-finals.

Study clubs that United view as – historically, at least – contemporaries. Old heads reign supreme.

Vincent Kompany steadily dislodged John Stones at Manchester City in 2018/19 and Daniele Rugani has been forced to bide his time at Juventus, courtesy of last summer’s return of Leonardo Bonucci.

Gerard Pique offers wise counsel to Clement Lenglet at Barcelona. Jose Gimenez has developed gainfully next to indefatigable compatriot Diego Godin at Atletico Madrid, while Virgil van Dijk will be expected to bring on the exceptional Joe Gomez at Liverpool – fitness permitting.

Even at Ajax, the unheralded Daley Blind was a major catalyst for De Ligt’s outstanding 2018/19.

Bayern Munich appear an exception, thanks to youthful France recruits Lucas Hernandez and Benjamin Pavard joining up with 23-year-old Germany international Niklas Sule. But United do not boast anyone close to the retained Mats Hummels, who’ll remain to correct any faults.

Pursuits of Wan-Bissaka and James evidence that the Red Devils require several successful and perceptive transfer windows. Patiently backing standout prospects is the way forward, through troubled lands.

At centre-back though, they already possess one in Lindelof. Rather than attempting – however laden with folly the pursuit will probably be – to supplement him with De Ligt, the equally expensive Kalidou Koulibaly at Napoli is 27-years old and in his prime.

Spurs’ Toby Alderweireld has three more years on the clock and a beguiling £25m release clause, with Roma’s 27-year-old Kostas Manolas in a similar position.

De Ligt would deliver the buzz on social media Woodward so desires. On the pitch, however, he and United would bring out the worst in each other.

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Transfer predictor: Gareth Bale to Man United is a 3, Leon Bailey to Chelsea just a 2

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Struggling to pick out the facts from the figures? Reality from the rubbish? Sense from the silly season? We’ve got you sorted in our daily dose of the Transfer Predictor, where we round up the latest rumours with an analytical spin.

We sort through the most eye-catching transfer reports of the past 24 hours and give a balanced judgment on whether the move really will happen – and why.

Today’s edition features potential signings for Real Madrid, Inter Milan and Chelsea.

GARETH BALE

0519 Gareth Bale

RUMOUR: Real Madrid -> Loan -> Manchester United

United are prepared to take the unwanted Wales forward on loan and attract Madrid by taking him off their wage bill, according to the Daily Mirror.

WHY IT WILL HAPPEN: Madrid are desperate to get rid of their exorbitantly well-paid winger. The market for a £75 million permanent sale at such intimidating cost, for a 29-year-old riddled by injury, is small. A pragmatic temporary deal then, through necessity, could make sense. This lessens the gamble for United ahead of another summer rebuild.

WHY IT WON’T HAPPEN: Bale has reportedly made it clear to Los Blancos he has zero intention of ending his six-year stint, no matter head coach Zinedine Zidane’s malevolent intentions towards him. In this context, would he be prepared to drop out of the Champions League? Also, United are meant to be targeting emerging British talent. Painful memories of how poorly Colombia striker Radamel Falcao fared on loan should also be fresh.

TRANSFER PREDICTOR: 3/10

LUCAS VAZQUEZ

Vazquez

RUMOUR: Real Madrid -> €30m -> Inter Milan

The Spain winger has emerged as an alternative option to bolster Antonio Conte’s revamp at the San Siro, according to Sky Sport Italia.

WHY IT WILL HAPPEN: Vazquez’s diligence, energy and discipline make him an obvious pick for Conte. Madrid must make some sales to supplement their extensive – and expensive – summer refit. The acquisitions of Rodrygo, Luka Jovic and Eden Hazard make Vazquez expendable.

WHY IT WON’T HAPPEN: Inter’s clear first choice for the right wing-back position in Conte’s preferred 3-4-3 formation is Hertha Berlin and Austria’s Valentino Lazaro. He is also both younger and cheaper. For Madrid’s behalf, Vazquez remains a solid back-up option. They would rather sell persona non grata Bale than get rid of him.

TRANSFER PREDICTOR: 6/10

LEON BAILEY

BeFunky-collage (5)

RUMOUR: Bayer Leverkusen -> £80 million -> Chelsea

Chelsea have rekindled interest in the Jamaica-born forward and plan to swoop if their transfer ban appeal is successful, according to the Daily Mail.

WHY IT WILL HAPPEN: The Blues are in the market for attacking options after they reluctantly allowed Hazard to fulfil his dream of moving to Madrid. They’ve already raided the Bundesliga for Borussia Dortmund’s Christian Pulisic and a similar switch could be in the offing. Bailey was a shining starlet in 2017/18 – with nine goals and six assists in 30 top-flight run-outs – and his youth at 21-years old will appeal.

WHY IT WON’T HAPPEN: A cloud covers Stamford Bridge as they await the outcome of their verdict to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, which if unsuccessful will preclude them from signing any new players over the age of 16 this summer or in January 2020. Even if this avenue works, Bailey’s level dropped in 2018/19. Bayer are also in no rush to sell after Julian Brandt exited for BVB, meaning their sizeable price tag might make little financial sense for the now cost-conscious Chelsea.

TRANSFER PREDICTOR: 2/10

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Transfer predictor as Bayern Munich are front-runners for Man United target Nicolas Pepe

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Struggling to pick out the facts from the figures? Reality from the rubbish? Sense from the silly season? We’ve got you sorted in our daily dose of the Transfer Predictor, where we round up the latest rumours with an analytical spin.

We sort through the most eye-catching transfer reports of the past 24 hours and give a balanced judgment on whether the move really will happen – and why.

Today’s edition features potential signings for Atletico Madrid, Bayern Munich and Barcelona.

Marcos Alonso

Marcos-Alonso-Chelsea

Chelsea -> undisclosed -> Atletico Madrid

Goal have reported that Atletico Madrid could chase Marcos Alonso to fill the void left by Bayern Munich-bound Lucas Hernandez at the left-back position.

WHY IT WILL HAPPEN

Atletico are in need of a top defender with vast experience in the upper echelons of world football and Alonso could provide just that.

The Madrid-born full-back would surely be enticed by the proposition of returning to his home city and the 28-year-old recently admitted that he’s happy to hear about interest from Spanish clubs.

WHY IT WON’T HAPPEN

With Eden Hazard off to Madrid, Maurizio Sarri on his way to Juventus and a transfer ban preventing them from expanding their squad, one can expect Chelsea to do whatever it takes to secure players who are regular faces in their starting line-ups.

Even if this move is to materialise, it’s unlikely that it could happen before Chelsea’s transfer ban is completed.

Transfer rating: 5/10

Nicolas Pepe

Nicolas Pepe.

Nicolas Pepe.

Lille -> £70 million -> Bayern Munich

Manchester United target Nicolas Pepe could be on his way to Bayern Munich after a spectacular season with Lille, according to Sun.

WHY IT WILL HAPPEN

Bayern have a winger high on their shopping list after the legendary duo of Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery called it quits on their storied careers with the German club. Pepe is a proven player who was extremely crucial in Lille’s rise from relegation-threatened strugglers to runners up in Ligue 1.

The 24-year-old would be given the incentive of establishing himself as a starter in one of the best teams in the world. Between United and Bayern, it’s a no brainer, given the state of things at the Premier League club.

WHY IT WON’T HAPPEN

Although this transfer seems good in theory, it is yet to be reported by reliable German newspapers. In fact, Sport Bild had claimed that Bayern had dropped their interest in the winger only last month.

Transfer predictor: 6/10

Gianluigi Buffon

Gianluigi Buffon

Paris Saint-Germain -> Free-> Barcelona

Sky Sports reported that Gianluigi Buffon could wear the Blaugrana colours next season, after he refused to extend with PSG.

WHY IT CAN HAPPEN

With Jasper Cillessen rumoured to be leaving in search of playing time, Barcelona find themselves needing a replacement.

At his age, its unlikely Buffon could start every week for any top European club. At Barcelona, he could be a back-up to Marc-Andre ter Stegen and use his vast experience to help the German expand his horizons.

The Italian will also be presented with the opportunity to win the one trophy he has always yearned for – the Champions League.

WHY IT CAN’T HAPPEN

Barcelona’s wage-structure is really complicated and the entry of yet another star player can only degrade it further. Antoine Griezmann will be joining the Catalan giants in all probability, hence adding more weight to the wage-bill. With Matthijs de Ligt being a higher priority on their wish-list, it’s unlikely that Buffon will make the move too.

Transfer rating: 5/10

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